Week 13 Football Pick’em Strategy & Advice (2021)

The Week 13 Pick'em value picks include a heavy dose of the NFC East, and lots of question marks about some favorites.

Terry McLaurin will try to race past the Raiders (Larry Radloff/Icon Sportswire)

Here, we’ll track Week 13 news and discuss the implications for maximizing your edge in NFL and college football pick’em contests. We’ll also provide some of the rationale behind picks potentially recommended by our Football Pick’em Picks product.

Week 13 Pick’em Updates

We will continue to add to this post until Sunday of NFL Week 13, so check back for daily updates. Here’s what’s available now:


Tuesday 11/30

Week 13 Early Value Picks Outlook

Here’s our early look at some potential value plays in NFL pick’em pools for Week 13.

Washington Football Team (at Las Vegas Raiders)

Line: +2.5
TR Win Odds: 45%
Popularity: 17%

The Raiders won in the most-watched regular-season game in 30 years on Thanksgiving Day against the Dallas Cowboys. Meanwhile, Washington beat Seattle in a fairly uninspiring affair on Monday Night Football, when we were all well past our turkey hangovers.

This game is closer to even, but the public is going strongly on the Raiders. Nearly five of every six picks is on Las Vegas right now.

The Raiders have been largely inconsistent this season (they have a better record as an underdog), so taking a slight chance on Washington here could lead to big rewards.

New York Giants (at Miami Dolphins)

Line: +3.0
TR Win Odds: 41%
Popularity: 18%

Another NFC East team is our second-best value upset pick of the week, as the Giants go to the Dolphins.

Miami has won four in a row, and the public is all aboard this week. But the Giants are only a field-goal underdog here, and you can get excellent differentiation from your weekly picks pool in this one.

Philadelphia Eagles (at New York Jets)

Line: -6.5
TR Win Odds: 74%
Popularity: 79%

This one is likely contingent on the status of Philadelphia QB Jalen Hurts, which we will monitor through the week. He has an ankle injury, and with the Eagles on bye in Week 14, they could choose to rest him and start Gardner Minshew II.

More entries are picking the Jets this week than either the Giants or Washington, though. As long as the Eagles’ spread stays near where it is, they’re a relative value as decently sized favorite.

Dallas Cowboys (at New Orleans Saints)

Line: -4.0
TR Win Odds: 66%
Popularity: 73%

We might as well add the fourth NFC East team to our value rundown.

The Cowboys have lost three of their last four games, and now head coach Mike McCarthy and several other staff members are out due to COVID-19. (That news caused the point spread to fall from -6 to -4.)

On the other hand, WR CeeDee Lamb should be back, and the offense should get a boost with his return. However, Amari Cooper’s status still seems to be in doubt after he has missed the past two games with COVID-19.

There aren’t any true “value favorites” this week where the public is strongly on an underdog. But relatively speaking, the public is more down on the Cowboys.

Of the 14 matchups, they are only 10th in pick popularity. They are eighth in win odds, but there is a gap after them to riskier favorites of a field goal or less.

Arizona Cardinals (at Chicago Bears)

Line: -8.0
TR Win Odds: 78%
Popularity: 86%

The Cardinals used to be a member of the NFC East, so in honor of Dan Dierdorf, Neil Lomax, and Ottis Anderson, they are our fifth entry into this week’s value picks.

Arizona is a larger favorite, but it is also a relatively solid play to include at higher confidence. The Cardinals are sixth in popularity but have our fourth-highest win-odds projection.

QB Kyler Murray should also be back for this one after missing the last three games.


Tuesday 11/30

Week 12 Results Summary

Week 12 was a tight one with few big favorites (and one of those, Dallas, got beat on Thanksgiving). So there were plenty of swing games, which should make for a fairly wild week in pick’em pools.

Game-Winner Pools

In game-winner pools, the public averaged 8.1 wins in Week 12.

The biggest win for the public was the Green Bay result, where the Rams were a slight favorite by kickoff but nearly two-thirds of entries were picking the Packers. On the other hand, the public was also strongly picking the Chargers, who lost at Denver as a 2.5-point favorite.

That Broncos game was our most frequent upset pick in weekly pools, which helped with that performance. Overall, both the season-long “Max Profit” picks (9.0 wins) and weekly picks (9.1 wins on average) outperformed the public for the third straight week.

Spread Pools

The public was right at .500 this week in spread pools, averaging 7.5 wins in 15 games.

Popularity was more spread out this week compared to some past weeks, with lots of games drawing close to 50 percent on both sides. But two of the more popular public picks, the Chargers and Eagles, both lost.

Our pick recommendations averaged 8.1 wins in season-long max-profit picks and 7.7 wins in weekly recommendations, both a little ahead of the public again.


FYI

Important Notes About Picks We Highlight

Keep in mind three things about picks we highlight in this article:

  1. Optimal pick strategy balances risk and potential reward.
    Maximizing your odds to win a pick’em pool generally requires identifying the best opportunities to differentiate your picks. You want to fade the public while taking on minimal risk to do so. For example, taking a favorite being picked by less than 50% of your opponents is usually a great opportunity.
  2. Not all of the picks we highlight are suitable for all pools.
    Don’t be surprised if our Football Pick’em Picks product doesn’t recommend several of the picks we mention in this post—especially the upset picks. The best pick strategy for your pool depends on a number of factors such as your pool’s size, rules, and prize structure (a concept that’s covered in part by our article on season vs. weekly prize strategy).
  3. Picks we highlight may no longer look compelling by game day.
    We analyze and write about picks using data (e.g. win odds and pick popularity), but that data can change up until kickoff. A key player being ruled out or a shift in public sentiment about a team can erase the differentiation value that a pick initially offered.

We’ll provide periodic updates in this post if major data changes occur for picks we’ve mentioned, so make sure to check back. However, there’s a much better way to stay on top of changing data trends throughout a week, which all sharp players need to do.

Our Football Pick’em Picks product automatically imports the latest win odds and pick popularity data multiple times per day. You can see the latest information in the Data Grid.

After you generate customized picks for your pool, you can also update those pick recommendations whenever you want via the My Pool Picks screen. The updated picks will incorporate the most recent data we have.


FYI

About Our Pick’em Pool Advice

What makes our football pick’em advice different from other sites is that it isn’t generic.

In any given week, the best picks for your football pool depend on a number of variables. Your pool’s size, rules, and prize structure all influence strategy, as do factors like your place in the standings and how many weeks are left.

So many different scenarios exist that it’s impossible to give pick advice that makes sense for every one. An underrated six-point underdog could be a great pick in a big weekly prize pool and a terrible pick for a small season-long pool where you’re currently in the money.

Technology to the rescue

Other sites don’t understand this stuff, or they just ignore it because it’s complicated and hard. We’re the only site that has built algorithms to evaluate these strategy factors and provide you with customized pick recommendations every week.

The result? Every year, an average of 71% of our subscribers win a prize in a football pick’em contest.

So if you want to see all the Week 1 picks we recommend for your football pool, you need to use our Football Pick’em Picks product.

Why we write this column

At the same time, we know our subscribers like to understand the rationale behind picks the product may recommend, especially when those picks go against the grain. So over the years, we’ve started to write more about the “whys” behind our approach.

We also utilize this column to help educate our readers about pick’em pool strategy. We highlight tactics proven to result in more pick’em pool wins over the long term and point out common pitfalls to avoid.

Our goal with these articles is to dig deeper into pick’em pools than anyone else by using an objective, data-driven lens. We’ll recap key results from the previous week, identify the most compelling value picks of the current week, and evaluate the implications of breaking news on pick’em strategy.

We hope you enjoy reading, and we encourage you to check out more of our football pick’em strategy articles.


Wednesday 12/1

Daniel Jones’ Injury Results in Dolphins Jump in Win Odds

Giants’ QB Daniel Jones was described as “week-to-week” with a neck injury, and Mike Glennon is expected to start Sunday’s game against Miami, though that hasn’t been made official yet.

As a result, the point spread moved from the opening number of Miami -2.5 to the Dolphins now favored by 5.

The Giants were a potential value-upset play in weekly pools that we highlighted early yesterday. But with this news, that is no longer the case.

Right now, the two highest-value upset plays in weekly pools are Washington (at Las Vegas) and the Los Angeles Chargers (at Cincinnati).


Thursday 12/2

Dallas Becomes Higher-Value Favorite with Line Move for Thursday Night Football

With news that several key players, including RB Alvin Kamara and both offensive tackles, will miss tonight’s game for the Saints, the line has moved upward in Dallas’ favor.

The Cowboys are now favored by six points and have 70 percent win odds. With 73 percent of the public picking them, they are actually a solid value choice this week.

The Cowboys now have the eighth-best win odds for the week, but they’re 10th in popularity. As a result, expect Dallas to be a value play in game0winner pools.

In spread pools, you may also be getting closing-line value on Dallas if your contest line is at a lower number.


Friday 12/3

Daniel Jones Confirmed Out, Plus Other Line Moves

Giants QB Daniel Jones is officially out for the matchup against the Dolphins, which means Mike Glennon will start. That has moved the Dolphins to 70 percent win odds.

Miami is now solidified as the right pick in game-winner pools. There will also likely be an uptick in entries picking the Dolphins in spread pools based on closing-line value compared to contest spreads.

The other big line move is in the Las Vegas vs. Washington game, where the spread has dropped from 2.5 points to 1 point. This was already our highest-value upset play in weekly pools, with only 23 percent of the public picking Washington.

With that line movement, and Washington now with projected 49 percent win odds, you could also see Washington creep into more season-long picks as well.

We’ve also seen smaller, but important, line movement in Minnesota-Detroit, where the Vikings have been moved above the key number and are now at -7.5.


Saturday 12/4

College Football Conference Champ Weekend Value Picks

The conference championship games began last night, where Utah beat Oregon in the Pac-12 title game and Texas-San Antonio won Conference USA.

Here is a breakdown of the value plays for today:

Value Favorites

  • Kent State (62% win odds, 45% popularity) vs. Northern Illinois in the MAC title game.
  • Appalachian State (59% win odds, 34% popularity) vs. Louisiana in the Sun Belt.

Value Gambles

  • Utah State (29% win odds, 3% popularity) vs. San Diego State in Mountain West.
  • Baylor (28% win odds, 13% popularity) vs. Oklahoma State in Big 12.

You can see all the data in our Data Grid for all games this weekend.

Also, a reminder that if you are playing bowl pools, our Bowl Pick’em product launches by Monday after the full bowl schedule is announced.


Sunday 12/5

Reviewing The Week 13 Dynamics Entering Sunday

After a wild and tight week last week, we return to some normalcy this week, with over half the games featuring a team favored by 6.5 or more points. Philadelphia is no longer part of that group, however, as the line has dropped slightly after news broke that QB Jalen Hurts would not play.

Gardner Minshew II is poised to make his first start with the Eagles today against the Jets as a result.

No Big Value Favorites This Week

There aren’t any true high-value picks among the favorites this week, where the public is heavily leveraged on an underdog. The closest was on Thursday, where a late line movement pushed Dallas close.

If you successfully have Dallas in the fold (as most of you should in game-winner pools), then you should be up on a few opponents.

The Bills have 62 percent win odds and 67 percent pick popularity against the Patriots tomorrow night, so they’re the other team that’s closest in this regard.

Washington is the Key Swing Game

Washington at Las Vegas is probably the biggest swing game for this week. The public is heavily on the Raiders (76 percent popularity).

The WFT have seen line movement in their direction, and they’re only a 1.5-point underdog with 48 percent win odds. As a result, you could see them in most pick sets and leveraged for higher confidence in weekly confidence-point pools.

You Will Probably See Fewer Upset Picks in Weekly Contests This Week

The dynamics of this week are leading to some interesting strategies. One of those is far fewer upsets in weekly pick sets this week.

Most of the underdogs with a decent difference between their win odds and popularity are larger underdogs. There are also a lot of heavier favorites, and the public seems pretty split on which ones to pick to get upset this week.

Add in the WFT-Raiders swing game, and the pick logic is settling more on playing the bigger favorites, rolling the dice with Washington, and being more conservative overall.

If you do see some other upsets, it is likely to be picking the Chargers, the Seahawks, or both.

Spread Pools

Miami is the most popular pick (73 percent) in spread pools. Given the line movement and QB issues for the Giants, it’s still likely a value play to take the Dolphins in most pools, depending on your place in the standings.

The only other team with pick popularity over 70 percent is the Rams at the large -13 number, so you’re likely to see picks on the Jaguars in weekly contrarian situations.

There has been line movement in favor of Miami, Indianapolis, Denver, the Jets, and Washington since early in the week. You also may have seen line movement from a key number for a team like Seattle. So you may see those teams recommended at a higher rate.

Finally, our top model play is Detroit +7, so expect to see a fair amount of Lions picks as they go for their first win.